There are some people who come into your life – or you come into theirs who make a huge difference. If I’m being perfectly frank with you – it was my first nurse – and a male one at that – Frank Caparelli who greeted me when I arrived in the critical care unit of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center on May 16, 2005.
I had been transported from my local emergency room at Emerson Hospital in Concord, MA after one of the most horrific days of my life just one day earlier. On May 15th, I was in Atlantic City speaking to a group of women business owners, even though the days leading up to this engagement were showing real signs of serious illness.
I ignored the writing on the wall and carried on to board a plane and head to New Jersey despite my better judgment and the advise of close friends who knew something was very off. I did the speech, boarded a plane and had a friend pick me up from the airport to take me immediately to my local ER. They shipped me off via ambulance the following day to the critical care unit of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center where I met Frank.
I’ll never forget Frank. He greeted me with a smile and although I was in ICU, I never fully realized the severity of the situation. Frank normalized things. He commented on my French manicure and pedicure and said he’d never seen this on someone before. Frank shared that if I took care of myself so well, (with mani pedi’s I guess) he would take care of me the same way and I believed him. I felt comfortable and at ease with Frank and was so glad he was there for me. Within three days I was in a coma that would last two months while I underwent an emergent liver transplant, brain surgery and a myriad of other “procedures.”
When I awoke on July 17, 2005, I was fully aware that time had passed and I remembered my doctor saying that I needed a liver transplant. An unthinkable thought for someone who had registered as an organ donor – not a recipient. I was dilusional, confused and frightened and I was fearful that Frank was in on the conspiracy to kill me – a thought I had about many others I saw who were my caretakers – nurses, doctors, etc.
Frank told me later he knew I was fearful but he continued to show up consistently in the kindest of ways and my fears began to dissipate.
Frank consistently went above and beyond the call of duty. He was transferred to another ICU floor, but kept coming in before his shift started to visit me. One day when I was in ICU and still unable to speak due to the trachea I had, Frank seemingly happily came in early to see me and take me for a CT scan. He took me down the all too familiar corridors of Beth Israel and waited for me while I underwent yet another CT scan. When that was finished, he began to push my bed down long several halls in what looked to be the bowels of BIDMC until he pushed through two double black doors and we were suddenly on the outside of the hospital on the loading dock on the most amazing August day. He pushed my stretcher so that my legs could feel the sun beating on my legs for the first time in months. It was an unforgettable moment for me and meant so much to me that he would take the time do extend himself this way. I had been asking (or mouthing out) for days that I wanted to go outside and was always told no because I was so immune compromised. Frank’s effort was a simple and thoughtful act that he didn't need to do, but did. It is probably my most positive memory of being hospitalized -- other than taking my trachea out!
Meanwhile for the past 11 years, I’ve missed this man and was on a quest to find him. I asked several nurses who said they knew Frank and would help me reach him. It never seemed to work out. So then, I contacted President Kevin Tabb and asked for his help in orchestrating a reunion. He was kind enough to put me in touch with Judith Beiber, the head of HR and Margorie Serrano, Frank’s manager. Together they arranged for me to meet Frank in the lobby of the Rosenberg building (the host of Intensive Care Units) this past November.
I was finally reunited with the first nurse I saw the day I entered BIDMC’s ICU. He was the gentlest, kindest and most considerate nurse I had and remains memorable to me now and always will. My mother joined me in November and it was so incredible to see him again and hear directly from someone who cared for me about the trials, tribulations and numerous complications of what I experienced while in ICU that he was a direct witness to.
Frank was an angel to me and I’m so grateful he’s back in my life. If I can be perfectly Frank with you – my nurse Frank is perfect in my eyes.